Michael Bay is consistently criticized for his overuse of flash and style in his films, and while The Island does not break that mold it is a step up in storytelling for the helmer whose last four films (Bad Boys II, Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, The Rock) together grossed over $672 million at the box-office.
Bay’s desire to blow things up and his penchants for action sequences are repressed for about the first half of The Island and he manages to tell a fantastic story set in the future where human cloning is now a way of life.
The Island centers on a group of people living underground in a contained environment believing the outside world has been scorched and contaminated leaving it entirely uninhabitable. Unfortunately for these folks, the life they are living is a lie… they are clones of people living in society who have paid millions of dollars to have clones of themselves grown in order to cure their life threatening diseases or to simply spawn a new ass once they hit 40.
The dream these clones cling to is one day to win the “lottery” and leave their sterile environment and head to the hallowed island, the last uncontaminated place on Earth. For now, they must be content on living a boring life in which male-female “proximity” is strictly forbidden, they are restricted to a controlled diet regimen, and their days are spent working on the tubes that “no one” knows where they go.
Two of these clones are the center of our attention, Lincoln Six-Echo (McGregor) and Jordan Two-Delta (Johansson). Lincoln is not your average clone, he begins to question his existence and the overall concept of human curiosity sets this story spinning as he learns the truth about his situation just as Jordan wins the lottery and her trip to the revered “island” is only hours away.
Jordan and Lincoln have developed a “friendship” and as she is readying herself to leave he convinces her to try and escape as he has just witnessed what it truly means to go to “the island.”
This escape triggers alarms in the head of cloning mastermind Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean) who employs the talents of governmental mercenary Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) who sets out to capture the escaped clones so not to expose the secret to the world that these clones are actually living, breathing, thinking people and not the vegetables he claimed they were in his sales pitch.
Everything surrounding these early bits of the movie are great. Michael Bay restrains himself from blowing things up and fast camera movements, granted the underground society slightly resembles a day spa made of glass, sleek in design and very much Bay, it really kicks off a great story. It is once the clones make it to society that the explosions and gunfire prevail leaving the story behind.
Michael Bay has a tendancy to forget about his story from the get-go and head straight into the action and with The Island he didn’t do that, he gives McGregor and Johansson time to develop their characters, which is truly the most intriguing part of the story, forget the action and stylistic sets.
Lincoln and Jordan have been taught all that is necessary, basically the equivalent of a sixth grade education, their journey into mainstream society is a learning experience the entire way. Learning the ways of the world including money, slang, sex and their true purpose hits them hard as they walk around as a couple of wide eyed innocents who set out to make “lives” for themselves and reveal to the world the truth about the corporation behind the secret.
All of the actors involved turn in worthy performances, especially Steve Buscemi whose role is small, yet integral, and also the best of the feature as he is classic Buscemi when his character is given the responsibility of breaking the news to Lincoln and Jordan that they are actually clones and “not human” [clip]. Johansson has risen to the top of the heap in the actress category over her past few films and while her performance here is not as strong as some of her earlier work she turns in a good performance for her first action feature and she is also all the eye candy Bay needed for this film as she absolutely lights up the screen looking better than any actress I have seen on screen all year.
McGregor also proves he is better than the Star Wars prequels would lead us to believe, although not that much better. Like Johansson he has the task of acting as if he knows absolutely nothing about the outside world and while they do come off as oblivious, this type of situation normally leads to overacting, which is what happens here on a few instances.
Beyond acting, directing and all the explosions The Island stumbles and stutters as it reaches the ending as the writing soon peters out thanks to what seems like Bay’s translation of the script and the switch from mentally stimulating storytelling to sensory overload as action takes over the screen. I love action as much as the next guy, and Bay knows how to do it, and do it right, it is just that here he packs so many action sequences into the second half of the film that it really begins to wear thin.
While I could praise and criticize The Island all day I will admit that I enjoyed my time at the theater with this film and will certainly check it out on DVD, and if Bay’s box-office history has anything to say about it, or Scarlett’s beauty for that matter, The Island should fare well at the multiplex and I would not hesitate to suggest you check it out.